When it comes to Patriots preseason, this isn’t my first rodeo. I went down to Training Camp in Smithfield, RI in 2001 and counted at least two dozen people walking around in Michael Bishop jerseys they got for $85 a pop. And a year later they guy was getting cut. In Canada. So you learn not too get too excited about anything you see, good or bad. Fauxball games aren’t about reaching conclusions. You need to kind of step back and look at things long enough until they come into focus make an impression on you.
*That disclaimer out of the way, no one could watch the first 40 minutes or so of that game and not contract a nasty case of #PatriotsPriapism watching Chandler Jones. Jermon Bushrod is no stiff, and Jones gave him all he could handle. On the very first set of downs, Jones beat Bushrod in the hand battle and chased Drew Brees out of the pocket at full speed. He drew holding penalties on consecutive plays. On back-to-back running plays to the outside he penetrated enough to 1) Turn the ball carrier inside where he got stonewalled by (I think) Kyle Love and 2) Made the runner bounce so wide he was ridden out of bounds for no gain. It’s not like he’s got this insane quick-twit burst. But he uses his Otto Octavius arms to keep the blocker from engaging him and he’s strong enough to shove them off balance. Just a tremendous combination of power and balance. I find I can’t watch a play without wanting to see what he did. It’s going to be a long season for my DVR.
*I went with your old pal, Wake Up pioneer/ genius Uncle Buck, who made a pointed observation: Tom Brady is the only Pats player who comes out of the tunnel without his helmet on. Buck thinks it’s a order from management, to help promote the team. I don’t disagree. There are 30,000 or so women in the stand who don’t want to be denied seeing into those dreamy eyes. And at least one rapidly aging, Bradysexual, male blogger.
*Before the game they had a moment of silence for Junior Seau. It was a nice touch. And kind of a flashback to how stunning the news was when you first heard it. It’s been months now, but it’s still as incomprehensible as it was then.
*More proof you can’t read too much into these games: This was the first football game ever where both 0pposing quarterbacks had passed for 5,000 yards in a season. Facing the No. 31 and No. 25 defenses, respectively. And the final score was less than the Sox game Buck and I went to the day before.
*I’d call the game plans “vanilla,” but that would be an insult to vanilla, which is at least a flavor. What the Pats defense was playing was more like ice milk. They stayed in Cover-2 deep shell the entire game, with the exception of one play in the 3rd with the subs in, when they brought Tavon Wilson up in the slot and had Will Allen at Single High Safety. That put Sterling Moore in single coverage on a deep route that resulting in a PI for the longest play of the night.
*They showed Rajon Rondo on the big screen and the crowd went bananas. Somewhere in Florida, sitting around trying to do a little male bonding with Chris Bosh, Ray Allen shed a single tear.
*I think the replacement offciials thought they were getting paid by the penalty. And watching that ref announce a penalty on New Orleans and point to the Patriots was a reminder that sometimes we don’t appreciate someone until their gone. You might not love the DPW, but when they go on strike and the garbage piles up, you want them back. I want to feel the warm, loving embrace of Ed Hochuli’s massive arms again. Settle this thing before someone gets killed. Or worse: it costs us a game.
*I’m having happy thoughts about Shane Vereen after the most action we’ve ever seen him in. Against a bunch of guys who’ll soon be getting cut in Canada, he showed really impressive decision making and ability to cut. On that long TD drive he twice saw no hole, read good blocks from his wide receivers (first from Donte Stallworth and then Britt Davis) and bounced it outside for big gains. I semi-regularly do this radio show with a guy who goes to school at Nevada, saw Vereen come to Reno and run all over the place and he loved the Pats drafting him. Last night we saw why.
*One conclusion we CAN draw, is this is the most solid group of cheerleaders we’ve ever seen. I’m not one for predictions but I’m picking them to go 16-0. Talent, depth… not a hole in the lineup. It makes you wonder if maybe Mrs. Kraft (God rest her soul) wasn’t imposing her will on the squad and making them go for brains and personality over looks. Regardless, whoever’s shopping for the groceries now has my respect.
*The defense seems to be settling into a hybrid 4-3/3-4 with a lot of 4-2 nickel. Tt’s an unbalanced line, with typically Wilfork in a 1-shade and Love in a 4, just inside the tackle’s shoulder. Depending on the formation, Jones at RDE and Rob Ninkovich at LDE alternate standing up. Late in the game, Trevor Scott stood out playing the left end. On back-to-back plays he made a run stop on a play where he drew a holding call, then showed coverage on the tight end, then blitzed, fought off a block and recorded a knockdown. I’d heard good things about Scott and finally saw why.
*I watched as much Jake Bequette as I could and didn’t see a lot. They had him with his hand on the ground in 9-tech and the one play that stood out was when he came around the backfield to chase down Luke McCown for a 1-yard sack.
*I had the misfortune of having one of those guys next to me who doesn’t know anything but it doesn’t stop him from being wrong in a very loud voice. You know, the kind guy who wears crocs to a football game. I was able to tune him out until he started ripping the Pats for trading the Mark Ingram pick to New Orleans. And when he admitted he didn’t know who the Pats got for him I had to chime in: Vereen and Jones. And the indispensable Ingram had less than 500 yards last year, Mr. Know-it-All. Think You Know it All.
*The last straw though was when they showed a blonde, big-boobed MILF on the big screen and I said “Stifler’s mom!” which all his friends laughed at (it WAS spot on) but he had to have “American Pie” explained to him. This is why I watch games alone on my couch.
*The weird thing about the O-line is that the tackles perfectly mirrored each other. Well, maybe a Fun House mirror since one is 6-8 and white and the other is 340lbs and black. But I thought Solder and Cannon had remarkably similar nights. One one 3-step drop timing play, they both protected Brady by diving at the rushers feet. Then both got beat to the outside on the strip sack play. Cannon by Cameron Jordan Solder by Will Smith. [Note: the supply Will Smith plays on words was depleted sometime around “Pursuit of Happyness” Don’t look for any here.) Plus they both had holding calls. The state of the line right now is the best argument ever for a 4-game preseason.
*Dan Koppen’s struggles continue. He and Ryan Wendell split the center snaps and I thought Wendell was noticeably better. On one sweep run, Ridley got destroyed by the back side backer who came in untouched. It looked like Koppen was trying to pull out ahead of it but got caught in the wash and never made it. I wouldn’t be shocked if he doesn’t make the final cut.
*A similar thing happened to Ridley. Brady rolled out to his left, Koppen was upfield clearing the road but Brady had no one to pass it to and chucked it into the turf. He came back yelling at Ridley, whom I never saw so I assume he never made it through the traffic. Ridley went right to the bench and started explaining himself to Ivan Fears.
*I expect the McOffense will have a lot more screens, inside/outside zones and power run plays. Twice in a row they ran Ridley to the strong side in a 2-TE set, first left and then right, and he got the 1st down. But the screens are all about timing and it’s not there yet. We’ll see a lot of reps on those.
*Nothing wrong with wearing a Willie McGinest shirt, but the guy we saw was wearing an old 90s Willie, the ones with he white slanty numbers with the red drop shadow. And since it was an XL and he was 400 lbs if he was an ounce, one would assume he hasn’t been able to get out of it for 15 years.
*Speaking of Michael Bishop jerseys, any time I go to a game I like to find the most obscure Pats jersey I can, and last nights winner was an Andy Katzenmoyer. I’m guessing that’s a guy with a Phil Plantier in his closet at home.
*I don’t sweat the backup QBs. I just take it on faith that whatever criteria they use to evaluate them, works. (See: Brady, Matt Cassel. And Bishop.) Ironically enough, I thought Hoyer’s TD was one of his poorer throws. Brady last week talked about how the goal is to aim high when a receiver is on the back line, but low when he’s on the goal line. Which explains all those balls Welker picks off the grass. The TD was a .30 cal a foot above Britt Davis’ shoulder and he made a great snatch of it. But a dangerous throw.
*Not for nothing, but the Gillette staff couldn’t be nicer. Even when they’re wanding down your friend’s little kid, their awfully friendly about it.
*Dont’a Hightower owns the Sam spot. And looks to be the backup Mike. One mistake came when he came out of his lane and let Brian De La Puente (winner of the “NFL’s Most Univision Soap Opera-y Name” Award) seal him off for a gain up the middle. And another when he hammered a RB in the hole but didn’t wrap him. But I’m amazed at how fast his recovery is. On one early play he crashed to the outside, the run went inside, he changed direction and made the tackle. And he played well into the 3rd quarter. I will reach a conclusion on him. He’s legit.
*Dane Fletcher is a tough loss. But Bobby Carpenter looks like he’s perfect to fill that all-LB-spots role, Jeff Tarpinian has been groomed for it since last year and don’t sleep on Mike Rivera. I knew nothing about him before last night but he managed to show decent radar for the ball and a nice pass rush.
*Even if it was only 7-6, but after going to that Josh Beckett shitshow on Wednesday, I needed this game as the burning white powder they throw on prisoners to delouse them. @JerryThornton1